Cause for Encouragement!
On Wednesday, June 19, about 35 homeowners met with 4 presenters to discuss encouraging news.
The mantra of the meeting was “We are stopping this pipeline through our collective staying power”. Staying power which includes doing our homework, working with our many allies and communicating our findings and concerns to governmental authorities.
Here are some meeting “highlights”:
- Young Voices of Encouragement. The meeting began with a 3 min clip by high school student, Yasemin Cag. (Full video called “Another Fracking’ Pipeline” is on the HALT website.) Homeowner attorney, Tim Duggan was featured who emphasized that the combined impact of PennEast’s highly environmentally-sensitive proposed path and the lack of proven need are key reasons for authorities to reject their application.
- A New Scientific Risk to our Water has been identified. We had a short hard-hitting presentation by Dr Julia Barringer, retired senior scientistat theUS Geological Survey Agency. What her research has surfaced – besides the real threat of arsenic contamination – is an additional risk of radiation release from radon abundant in the rock bed in our area. This important fact has not been revealed by PennEast and will be added to our substantive list of technical reasons for not approving this pipeline.
- Learnings from Mariner Pipeline – Eve Miari, Advocacy Coordinator, Clean Air Council gave a sobering presentation of the many broken promises and real damages to homes, neighborhoods, and water supply being caused by the Mariner Pipeline in nearby Pennsylvania. These were striking and attention-getting including the actual negative impact that horizontal directional drilling (HDD) is having on water contamination and the eruption of many destructive sink-holes occurring throughout the pipeline’s path. The Mariner fight is not over and we will use these learnings in our fight against PennEast.
- Update on Eminent Domain case. Homeowner attorney, Tim Duggan said there was a Case Management Conference scheduled on June 24, 2019 to discuss the next steps in the case. Subsequently, the judge cancelled the meeting. Homeowners will be advised by their attorneys if the CMC is rescheduled and/or when the proposed discovery and hearing Order is entered. Also, Mr. Duggan mentioned that we are waiting for a decision from the Third Circuit Court of Appeals on the State’s appeal of the illegality of private industry taking state land (see below).
- Recent Eye-opening Developments. Tom Gilbert from the New Jersey Conservation Foundation (NJCF) detailed 3 important recent events which will help us defeat PennEast:
- On June 10th, NJ Assistant Attorney General Jeremy Fiegenbaum and attorneys for PennEast presented oral arguments before the 3rd Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Philadelphia. The assistant AG very effectively argued the State’s case that NJ and other states are immune from having their lands condemned by a private pipeline company under the 11th Amendment to the Constitution regarding the sovereign immunity of states. The panel of three judges seemed receptive to the State’s arguments. If the court rules in favor of the state, this will present a significant hurdle for PennEast regarding the more than 40 state properties that PennEast is seeking to condemn.
- Earlier this month, the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) denied multiple permits for the Transco NESE pipeline proposed to go under the Raritan Bay. In their decision, NJDEP used authority that we haven’t seen it exercise before, citing the company’s failure to show that wetlands and water resources won’t be harmed, the lack of a full alternatives’ analysis, and no public need/ public interest in NJ for the project. This bodes extremely well for PennEast opponents seeking denial of permits on similar grounds.
- Two Mondays ago, the NJ Board of Public Utilities released their draft energy master plan to achieve 100% clean energy. The draft plan emphasizes renewables, energy efficiency, electric vehicles and the electrification of building heating (which currently is heavily reliant on gas). The NJBPU suggests this will all lead to a dramatic reduction in reliance on fossil fuels. A project like PennEast is very inconsistent with these goals and policies.
We are encouraged and at the same time remain vigilant to stay the course!